My 3 Words for 2017
Ever take a personality or strength assessment? I have. More accurately, I've taken at least five different tests in the last decade. That should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me personally. I'm a self-help and peak performance enthusiast. I'm also constantly trying to level up my skills so that I can make a bigger impact in the world. You would think after that many tests there would be nothing new to discover. However, the one insight that has made the biggest impact on my life came out of last assessment I took (Strength Finder 2.0). Yes, the Learner and Strategy strengths were fairly obvious to me. However, it was the first time in my life that I became aware that I exhibited almost ALL the qualities of the Achiever strength.
This realization was a transformational moment for me. Up until that point, I thought I was weird for being so OCD and so determined about setting and achieving goals. But those sharing the Achiever strength are almost hard-wired to do so. It's what fuels them at a mental and emotional level. And if I looked at the last two decades of my life, it described me to a T.
Unfortunately, any strength taken to excess can become a weakness. It's one thing to be ambitious, but one can only push so far for so long before one has over-exerted themselves. In extreme cases, this can result in irreparable damage. I've learned this lesson several times in my life, including the moment where I pushed my body to the limit and broke my foot and can no longer participate in many of my favorite sports. Making matters worse, we now live in an age of infinity. There are millions of websites on the web producing content and vying for our limited and finite attention. The internet opens us up to endless opportunities for hobbies, businesses, friendships, etc. For an achiever that lacks self-discipline, overextending and overexerting oneself is far too easy. Looking back over the last year, I see evidence all around me of that.
Don't get me wrong; I'm not complaining. It was merely an exercise in self-reflection to pick a strategy that will keep my strength a strength. As I review the state of all of my 2016 goals, I realize that I didn't make as much progress as I wanted to. Knowing that and knowing my tendencies, I have to be cautious. Left unchecked, the achiever in me wants to double down and complete these goals while shooting for the stars with additional (and ambitious) goals for 2017. If I don't reign this in, I'm going to push my body past its limits (again).
Creating My 2017 Game Plan
Ever since I was exposed to Chris Brogan's 3 Words strategy five years ago, I've used it set an overarching intention for each new year. And given what has bubbled up through this last round self-reflection, I wanted to pick three words that worked together to support that overall objective.
I'm sharing these publicly for two reasons:
- To hold myself accountable after publicly declaring them.
- To share in the hopes that you may be inspired to follow a similar process.
Without further ado...
If you haven't read Essentialism by Greg McKeown, I would highly recommend adding it to your reading list. One theme that he hits on over and over again is the disciplined pursuit of less, but better. While this seems so obvious, the reality is that achievers can fall victim to the exact opposite approach: the undisciplined pursuit of everything, thereby accomplishing nothing. And for an achiever that is fueled by checking this off a list, seeing piles of uncompleted goals is utterly debilitating. In 2016, it was not uncommon for me to end a workday with 30 new tasks/projects added to my todo list while only checking off 3-5. This overwhelmed me so much that on one occasion I just dropped everything that I was holding because I just had to stop in my tracks to regroup.
Part of the challenge of being an achiever is being a victim of your own success. When people see you as someone who can get shit done (GSD), they begin to direct more and more your way until you cross a threshold where it becomes a traffic jam. Paradoxically, what made you successful can, if not protected, cause you to grind to a halt.
To that end, I need to constantly check my commitments and make sure that I'm not always going over capacity. I need to make space for the truly important rather than trying to take on everything and fail at that. And when those unimportant and "urgent" things show up, I need to have a strategy for quickly completing or eliminating them from my todo list. To that end, my goal is to take 3 minutes each day to eliminate three tasks from my todo list that I should either defer, delegate, or delete.
The beauty about building up momentum is that you can coast a bit without much effort. Coast too long, however, and things slow to a halt before you realized what happened. You get rusty with the very skills and habits that built up the momentum in the first place. And getting back up to speed takes a lot of concentrated time and effort.
In being overcommitted, I allowed myself to get rusty in several areas. I used to have more patience and cope better with stress. I used to learn new subjects more easily and quickly, and now I find taking a bit longer. And so on. These issues are not irreversible, but it takes concentration, determination, and getting back to the basics.
I want to have abundant energy again. I want to feel like I am growing and improving instead of barely keeping pace with entropy. I want to re-establish my foundational habits and skills, building them back to a place of mastery so that I can go back to a place of sharing and teaching from that place. Minimally, this requires daily repetition to form and re-establish these habits.
Through a combination of many things (2.5-year-old daughter, COO at a rapidly growing startup, lots of goals and commitments, etc.), I've pushed myself physically to the point where coffee isn't even effective. Emotionally, I'm not always present. Mentally, I routinely get to the place of decision fatigue. Spiritually, I've lost touch with some of the daily practices and experiences that I cherished so much.
Overall, my health (physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually) has to go through a complete overall. This has to be a top priority because I've pushed too hard for too long, which has completely depleted my reserves. And given that I am so determined to give back to the world, I can only do that if I'm in a place where I have the energy and ability to do so. Therefore, if I can stick to the theme of focusing only on the truly important things in my life (essentialism), I should have no reason not to spend at least 30 minutes of each and every day to rest, recover, and rejuvenate.
My mantra is going to be 3, 30, 30. Every day I will commit a minimum of 3 minutes to eliminate anything that is not a top priority (essentialism), 30 minutes on my most important goals (mastery), and 30 minutes are restoring my physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual vitality (wholistic). If I can stick to this commitment, I'm certain that I can make 2017 a fantastic year and get myself to a place where the achiever in me will thrive!
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About Rick Manelius
Quick Stats: CTO of Contact Mapping. Author of Winning the Lottery Within. Graduated from MIT in '03 (BS) and '09 (PhD). Life hacker and peak performance enthusiast. This blog is my experiment in creative writing, self-expression, and sharing what I've learned along my journey. For more information, read my full bio here or contact me.